“Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.” -Author Peter McWilliams
At age seventeen I found myself the oldest person riding the bus to school each morning. Ashamed, I would curl up in the first over-sized seat near the driver with my hoodie pulled up over my head, drowsy from the early call of my alarm clock and the jabbering of the younger passengers around me. I rode the bus because I was fearful of learning to drive a stick shift, which was my ticket to driving the old family car to school at a more decent hour. Frivolous as it may sound, I carry this memory deeply and with much regret. It’s not the actual bus ride that bothers me when I think back, but rather now my realization of how often I let fear control my every move for the better three-quarters of my life. There I was, a senior in high school, miserably riding the bus unnecessarily all because I was afraid of the discomfort that came with learning a new skill.
One of the single hardest lessons I’ve learned in adulthood is the importance of learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings, especially when it comes to developing a career and taking on new opportunities. However, I wasn’t able to start chipping away at years of insecurity until I took a hard look at the root of my anxiety and developed the discipline to push through it.
In her best selling book, “Lean In”, author and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says, “Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure.” How many of us actually pass on opportunities because we feel that we simply can’t deliver? Or perhaps we become paralyzed from previous perceived failures, when actually these occurrences could be viewed as personal growth.
Personally, I struggle with the constant worry that I believe myself more talented than I actually am. If I let that feeling take hold too strongly, I’ll start imagining friends and colleagues critiquing my skills or thinking poorly of my work. This inevitably causes nothing but an overwhelming, unrelenting fear that puts me right back in that school bus seat: hoodie pulled up, frozen and hiding from the world.
How do we conquer those insatiable fears that settle in the bitter part of our stomachs? I’m not sure that we actually can blot them out completely. However, learning to sit with those discomforts on a daily basis can actually be a form of victory day in and day out. Sometimes, we need to push through the fear in order to claim what we would not otherwise have. Eleanor Roosevelt is famous for saying, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face … we must do that which we think we cannot.” Notice she doesn’t mention the erasing of uncomfortable feelings, but rather suggests tackling them head on.
…learning to sit with those discomforts on a daily basis can actually be a form of victory day in and day out.
Most truly remarkable opportunities in life require a lot of hard work and stretching beyond our comfort bubbles in order to become who we are really meant to be, both personally and professionally. As women, we can do a lot to encourage one another to fight through fears and practice the discipline of discomfort when those moments arise. Next time you feel that anxiety building and you desire to fall back, consider if you should rather forge ahead — what is really holding you back? The result for your future goals and dreams could be truly amazing.
…not to mention, keep you off the school bus for the rest of your life!
What are some discomforts that you’re facing at present? How can you forge ahead?
Image via Shannon Lee Miller